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Ex-Saudi intel chief hopes Tehran-Riyadh deal will be ‘game-changer’ for region

Former Saudi intelligence chief Turki al-Faisal speaks in an interview with France 24 on March 14, 2023. (Photo by AFP)

Former Saudi intelligence chief Turki al-Faisal has expressed optimism that the agreement between Tehran and Riyadh to restore diplomatic ties and re-open diplomatic missions will be a “game-changer” for the West Asia region.

Faisal made the comment in an interview with France 24 on Tuesday as he elaborated on the restoration of long-severed ties between Tehran and Riyadh as part of a Chinese-brokered deal on March 10 as well as the two sides’ decision to open a new chapter in their relations.

Faisal said the "rapprochement" between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which took place after trilateral talks in Beijing, would affect the developments in major countries in the West Asia region, such as Yemen and Syria.

"China was the one that could pull it off because it has good relations with both of us," Faisal told France 24 in the interview. “Neither the United States nor Europe would have been able to be an honest broker between two parties.”

Asked by the French state-owned international news television network whether the Iran-Saudi deal will be a game-changer in the region, Faisal responded, “hopefully,” and stressed that the agreement “will have an effect” on developments in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.

After several days of intensive negotiations hosted by China, Iran and Saudi Arabia finally clinched a deal on Friday to restore diplomatic relations and re-open embassies and missions within two months.

According to a joint statement, Iran and Saudi Arabia highlighted the need to respect each others’ national sovereignty and refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of one another.

Iran, Saudi Arabia and China expressed their firm determination to make their utmost efforts to promote regional and international peace and security, it emphasized.

Meanwhile, Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization (CAO) announced on Tuesday that flights between Iran and Saudi Arabia will resume after the issuance of official permits.

“After studying the issue, the necessary and official permits for these flights will be issued and flights will be carried out between the two countries,” Jafar Yazarlou, the spokesman of CAO, said in an interview with Tasnim news agency.

Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic relations with Iran in January 2016 after Iranian protesters, enraged by the execution of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr by the Saudi government, stormed its embassy in Tehran.

The two sides had held five rounds of negotiations in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad since April 2021.

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